There’s a wet game of one-upmanship underway on the high seas, with cruise lines vying to create the most splashtastic aqua parks afloat. Wild waterslides that spiral around top decks and even jut out over the ocean are the centerpieces of these liquid playgrounds. Cruise ships with waterslides seem to wear their tangle of colorful tubes almost like crowns.
No doubt, the presence of these slides has changed the silhouette of today’s big boats. But before traditionalists get wound up tighter than the corkscrew turns on the best waterslides around, it’s worth pointing out the loading platforms for these attractions offer breathtaking views of the ocean’s enduring majesty. So, who’s the clear winner in the war of the cruise ship waterslides? Any passenger looking for a watery thrill!
Below you’ll find bucket-list worthy waterslides guaranteed to make your jaw drop and your heart rate soar. Obviously, you’ll get soaked as well, a welcome inevitability if you’re sailing during the summer months or island-hopping in the sun-baked Caribbean where cruises with waterslides are most popular.
With its iconic Twister waterslides adorning every ship, Carnival deserves kudos for consistently delivering splashy onboard fun. The line’s latest boat, Carnival Horizon, boasts Dr. Seuss WaterWorks, complete with a 450-foot, red-and-white-striped Cat’s hat waterslide that flops around as much as the famous feline’s eccentric headwear. Plus, a separate Fun Things waterslide celebrates the wacky world of the blue-haired twins, Thing 1 and Thing 2, with trippy polka-dot windows cut into the sliding tube.
On Carnival Vista, grab an inflated ring and float through the mesmerizing Kaleid-O-Slide. (Think a giant neon slinky or rafting inside a rainbow!) For some competitive action, Speedway Splash awaits on the recently renovated Carnival Sunshine. It promises side-by-side racing waterslides with a scoreboard at the finish line that calculates a winner.
Featuring water jets that actually propel riders uphill, AquaDuck, on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, ranks as the first shipboard “water coaster.” This fancy flume loops around the ship and down four decks on a route that tunnels through the forward smokestack and shoots out over the ocean in a translucent tube. Passengers sit atop two-person rafts for the 765-foot romp, which also includes a stretch of bubbling rapids and a lazy river section that delivers delightful views. Nighttime lights transform the experience, making it a must-do all over again. AquaDuck takes more than a minute to ride, but AquaDunk on Disney Magic makes a splash in mere seconds when the floor riders stand on to enter the waterslide falls away like a trap door.
Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway sport the largest collection of waterslides afloat, with no less than five slides on each boat. The aptly named Free Fall waterslides hold the record as the fastest at sea. On these dueling drop-slides riders experience 4Gs while plummeting several stories. Most Breakaway-plus ships, including the soon-to-debut Norwegian Encore, tout a similar waterslide dubbed Ocean Loops, which adds a figure-eight section that extends over the side of the ship. For fans of bowl slides, Norwegian Epic’s Epic Plunge beckons. It starts with an enclosed tube that spits riders out into an open saucer, where you swirl around a drain hole until getting flushed down.
While famous for its FlowRider surfing pools, Royal Caribbean only recently began offering waterslides on cruise ships. Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas introduced The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides: Cyclone, Typhoon and Supercell, the latter a massive bowl slide similar to Epic Plunge. On Liberty of the Seas passengers encounter Tidal Wave, the first boomerang-style waterslide at sea. It doesn’t follow a traditional top-to-bottom trajectory. Instead, rafts are launched into something resembling a half-pipe structure, where you slide up one side and experience a zero-gravity moment before boomeranging down toward the other.
New waterslides also adorn the remodeled Navigator of the Seas. Riptide, the only head-first mat racer at sea has a clear swing-out section that makes it seem like you’re flying Superman-style off the side of the ship. The Blaster, meanwhile, is the longest waterslide at sea. Unwinding for 800 feet, with open and closed chutes, The Blaster also contains the longest stretch of slide ever suspended beyond the edge of a cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean earns extra credit for hosting the tallest waterslide in North America (135-foot Daredevil’s Peak) at its private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Ultimate Abyss, a dry slide found on Harmony and Symphony, ranks as the tallest (100 feet) afloat and also demands respect.
Next time you hit the high seas, here’s to smooth sailing – and sliding!
For a better look at these cruise lines’ waterslides, check out our slideshow.